Friday, April 27, 2012


In my post before last - 22th April - I said that we had been to the beach with Jonathan and Ella, and how it was now possible, with my new camera, to take a panoramic view of Cala Carolina, instead of stitching several photos together as I had done previously. A friend has since pointed out that I then posted a photo, not of Calla Carolina, but of "the other bay", which I now know is Cala Cocedores. Call it a senior moment, or blame my bad eyesight. But just to make things right again:
Here is the beautiful Carolina beach;
And here is the equally beautiful Cala Cocedores;
The dark grassy mound to the right of the first photo and to the left of the second one,  are two sides of the same spit of land that joins the two bays.

 I actually  made the same mistake on my photo gallery, naming both bays, but showing the same one in the photos, so that has now been put right too. You can see it here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bloomin' Lovely !!

I'd thought I'd start off today with a long photo showing some of our roses which are suddenly all in bloom. Aren't they just beautiful? We cut them back so hard just a couple of months ago, and now they are all full of buds, as well as having a couple of blooms each. They will stay in flower for months now as long as the little caterpillar doesn't get them, and we have a spray to ward them off, so hopefully we will be enjoying the beauty of these flowers for weeks to come.

Last week I popped into our nearest Lidl store to pick up some cheap sugar for my jam, and I happened to see a small cupboard that I thought might be what we have been looking for. I have a very small utility area just off the kitchen, which came furnished with a washing machine, a dishwasher and a tumble drier. The first two I am very grateful for, but I have never used the tumble drier. I know some folk like to tumble their towels to keep them soft, but I would rather let them have some sunshine and fresh air, and even in the winter I can dry all my washing outside, so the machine seems like an unnecessary luxury. Apart from the machines there is only space for a small wall cupboard and two narrow shelves, so all my cleaning materials etc have to sit on any surface that's available. We have been on the lookout for a cupboard that is a bit smaller than the tumble drier, but big enough to hold the microwave on top, and some of the necessary other bits, inside. I took down the dimensions of the one in Lidls and it was perfect, so the next day Chris went back with me and we bought it. We then spent all Saturday morning assembling it! I have to say we were impressed with the standard of materials used. Everything was firmly joined. Even the drawers were screwed together instead of the usual glue. So now the tumble drier is in the garage, still useable if needed, all the kitchen cloths are in the drawers, the cleaning materials and washing powder are in the cupboards, and all the extras are in the wall cupboard which can now be opened without most of it's contents landing on my head! The bin is up out of the doorway, the top of the other machines are clear except for the crates of plastic containers, and I have around half a floor tile extra width of space, which in a tiny room, makes quite a difference. So  am very  pleased with it. This photo shows the space before and after our efforts.
 The weather is getting much warmer, and the knitting I sometimes do in the evenings will very soon have to be put away until next autumn, but before it does I am helping an on-line craft friend with a project to knit for babies in Africa. They are born into such abject poverty, that even should the mother be able to go to a make-shift hospital to give birth, her baby will be sent home wrapped in a sheet of newspaper. Because of this, they have been nicknamed Fish-and-chip babies. Although Africa is thought of as a hot country, it gets very cold at night. Most of these babies will have inherited AIDS from their parents, and they desperately need something warm to wear. An organisation in UK has distributed a set pattern to knit tiny jumpers and beanie hats for these babies, the only stipulation being that you use double knitting wool in dark, but bright, colours (not the pastels we would normally use for baby knitting) because these little garments will probably never be washed. 
Here is the first set I made. Aren't they cute? It only took me an afternoon to make the jumper and a couple of hours for the hat, so I will try to make a couple more before the temperature rises any higher. I have enlisted the help of some friends at church and my Wednesday knit/sew group, and I hope to have a bundle of them to bring to UK in my case next month. (We are taking one full case and one fairly empty one in case I get the opportunity to get a little retail therapy while I am there!). When I get to Birmingham I can post them to my UK contact who will pass them on to the organisers.

I started this post with a floral snippet, so I will end with one too. I went out to my monthly parchment craft class today, and on the way home I happened to drive passed a flower nursery. Everywhere I looked it was a sea of colours, mostly from geraniums and osteospermums, so I just had to stop and take a photo. 

And then when I went out to water the front garden this evening, I noticed that our bottle brush tree had opened up and now carries several lovely bright red brushes. It is a bit thin and straggly because it is confined to a fairly small pot, as we have very little plant-able land, but this year out neighbour has cut the incarvillea right back. This usually grows all over our little trees and starves them of light and air, so it seems to be blooming much more vigorously this year. I love all the exotic flowers that brighten up our lives.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fun with Family

Here I am again as promised, to tell you a bit about last week when we had Jonathan and Ella here. The weather could have been better. It was a couple of degrees cooler than the previous week and we also had the strong afternoon winds that often come in April. But they still managed to get out every day, and both went home with a bit of a tan. Fortunately our yard is quite sheltered and they liked to sit out on the swing seat with the dogs. They have a dog of their own at home and they enjoyed having ours to fuss. Jonathan was here three years ago when we had them as pups, and he was surprised at the size of them now! 

On a couple of days we took them down to the sea front and left them there to explore on their own, but we did have a couple of nice trips out with them as well. On the Sunday afternoon we took our lunch to our favourite beach, and when we arrived it was almost deserted. Carolina beach is one of two bays that meet at a short peninsular of rock. Last time I was there I tried to get a panoramic view of the bay by taking several shots and 'stitching' them together in a photo editing program at home. This was difficult because in each shot the waves were breaking in a different place. However, with my new camera I can take just one long shot so here it is. We did paddle along the water edge but none of us was brave enough to swim. We sat and watched a body-boarder having fun in the breakers, but he had a wet suit on!

Walking back to the other bay, (or hopping back as we had not bothered to slip our flip-flops on and the sand was so hot!), Jonathan spotted this lizard. We watched him catching a bug for his lunch, but he wouldn't eat it while we were watching him. He just sat with one eye on us and one eye on the bug. But he did pose very nicely for this photo so then we left him in peace. Don't you just love his outfit? Stripes on his body and big spots on his legs. Love it!

Our best day out was on the Monday when we went to Lake Negratin near Baza. This was our first visit too, though it was on my list of places to go, but a friend of Jonathan's had told him about the thermal springs there and he wanted to see them. It was a two hour drive so we set out quite early, and easily found the road, until the last mile or so that is. We then spent ages going round in circles until we realised the first road we had taken was the one we wanted! The thermal baths were a disappointment as they were all closed up. (There was a photo on Google earth of them open and full of people in March last year, so I was hoping we would find them the same, though I had warned the others that this is not holiday season so it was likely they would be closed). But the lake itself was awesome. It is huge, and the water is almost turquoise blue. All around it there are rocky hills and beyond them the mountains were still capped with a good covering of snow. I took too many photos to put them all here so I will just add a few and make a separate folder in my picasa gallery with the rest. 

We sat near the thermal baths to eat the lunch we had bought on the way, and then we drove to a place further round the lake where there is a man-made beach. Again the views were stunning but the wind was getting chilly so we were glad to find an open restaurant there, where we could get a hot drink before the drive home. I am glad I have seen this beautiful place and would certainly be happy to go there again with future visitors.

Anyway, Jonathan and Ella both enjoyed their week. They had been through a tough winter and the break did them good. They are both vegetarians which is something quite foreign to me. It is also foreign to the Spanish who really like their meat, and there is never a specific vegetarian option on the menu in a truly Spanish restaurant. So I was rather relieved to learn that they both eat eggs and cheese, and I managed to feed everyone for the week, without any meat. Now they are hoping to save up enough to come again when it is warm enough to get in the pool and the sea.

I have now loaded some photos taken throughout their stay which can view by clicking HERE.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Just for a change...

I have lost count of the amount of marmalade I have made over the past three months, so just for a change I decided to make some strawberry jam today! Many of my marmalade customers have been asking for some different fruity jam, but I have been waiting for the strawberries to drop in price before buying any for jam. They come onto the market straight after Christmas, at quite a high price then, but they have been getting much more reasonable and we have enjoyed some most weeks. But yesterday I needed to call at the Lidl store in Vera to buy sugar for marmalade (I have been given another small bag of bitter oranges which I had intended to use today as they don't keep so well now they are ripe). Sugar is cheaper there than anywhere else, and while I was there, what should I see on their fruit and vegetable aisle but boxes of strawberries (2kg) for 3.69€. I have never bought them for less than 4€ so I thought it was too good an opportunity to miss, and I bought two boxes of them. Today I went back there with Chris to buy a small cupboard I had seen , which I knew I wouldn't be able to handle on my own, and there were the strawberries again, and today they were down to 2.99€. So yes, I bought two more boxes. Of course they have an even shorter life than the oranges so this afternoon I set to with my crate of sugar, a few lemons donated by a friend, the four bottles of Certo that Ben brought over for me back in December, and my 8kg of strawberries.

Here is the first box I uncovered. Don't they look gorgeous? I am sure you are thinking, as I did, that they look too good to use for jam, but that is just how strawberries are out here. You don't get smaller ones, or even scruffier ones as a rule. They keep going like this until the end of their season, which will be quite soon now, and then one week there will be none at the markets, and we will be getting the first peaches and nectarines and apricots instead. Of course I kept back some for us to enjoy, and one or two ended up in my mouth instead of the pot, but most of them went where they were supposed to. I had to do two batches of 4kg as that is the most my preserving pan can hold. I like to crush my fruit so the jam has nice juicy pieces of fruit in it, but not whole strawberries. Chris did a sterling job on the first set with an old potato masher that I keep especially for the strawberries. But he wasn't around for the second batch so I cut half the fruit into small pieces and used my Bamix (hand-held processor) to chop up the rest. Half way through the cooking of them I decided there were still too many big lumps of fruit and I decided to use the Bamix directly in the preserving pan. The result-- bright pink and red dots over the door, the walls, the fridge and the floor, not to mention me! Not such a good idea, but fortunately they were all smooth surfaces so they were fairly easy to clean up, and I had actually put my pinny on, so my dress was unharmed. And several hours later I had 48 jars of strawberry jam, all sealed and labelled, cooling on the table, so that should keep my customers happy for a while. I don't intend to make any more, but I must do another batch of marmalade with those oranges and maybe one more lot of three fruits marmalade as I still have a few grapefruit and fairly sour, sweet oranges to use up. I have almost exhausted my store of jars. Friends are very good at returning them when they have finished their jam, and giving me lots of others as well. I thought I still had plenty but today has made quite a hole in them, so I will have to hope I get a few more back soon.

My next post was going to be about some of the lovely places we went to while Jonathan and Ella were here, but I decided to go with the jam today. Hopefully I will back tomorrow or Sunday with the rest.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Good, Good Friday

Good Friday is a good day in Spain today. The sky is blue, the sun is shining and the birds are singing their hearts out. The first oleander blossom has opened just outside my craft room window.

Hot cross buns are in the oven filling the house with a warm spicey-ness. I was up at 6.30 to make three dozen or so; some for our own use and the rest to sell at our Gallarte expo in the village. It opened last night and I sold lots of marmalade and a few beaded glass covers which are so useful if you like to have a drink outside on a summer evening. The little flies are particularly fond of red wine and home in on it. If we go down to the bar in the evening, from about May onwards we always take our beaded net covers, and last year they aroused enough interest for me to try making them for the sale this year. It is open until Sunday lunchtime so I have plenty of time to sell some more.

So now I would just like to wish all my loyal followers a very Happy Easter. For me Easter started late last night with the procession of penitents around the village, so unlike some folk, I don't think I need to wait until Sunday to send out Easter greetings. Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I think I blinked and missed it!

March seems to have almost passed me by unnoticed. Quite a lot has happened but I find it hard to believe that we are now in April. It has not been a very healthy month for us with both Chris and I having a bad bout of the virus that seems to be affecting folk almost world-wide. Happily we have come out the other side of that now, but with the mimosa in full bloom I am now plagued with my allergic cough-sneeze routine! Also my lovely cat Baggins was really poorly, starting with trouble keeping his food down, and ending up with him not even being able to drink, and he usually drinks water almost excessively. He had to spend three nights at the vet's on a drip because he was so dehydrated that they couldn't get a cannula in, so they had to inject fluid under his skin and wait for him to absorb it, and keep doing that every few hours. He had several blood tests which fortunately proved that his kidneys are functioning normally, and he is not diabetic. There does seem to be some rather hight thyroid readings so we are waiting for one more blood test result before deciding how to treat him. But he is obviously feeling much better, (at one point the vet thought we were going to lose him), and he is eating and drinking normally. He is a bit dopey - even more than usual - and spends a lot of his time lying in the sun. Why not - so do we!

We had a lovely week while Jean was out here. The forecast was not too good but we actually only had one cloudy day and we spent that doing some craft. We also had a long walk along the playa at Mojacar, and spent a lot of time just chatting in the sun. On Friday night we went to a new restaurant near Turre where we had a lovely meal and were entertained by a good singer and two girls doing Flamenco dancing. It was a good evening out. It seemed like no time at all before we were driving Jean back to Murcia for her flight home. In the next couple of days I managed to get all the bed linen and towels laundered so I could get the spare room ready again. Jonathan and Ella are arriving a week on Wednesday. We are supposed to be having rain over the Easter weekend but hopefully it will have all gone before they arrive.

Although tomatoes are very plentiful here, for some unknown reason, tinned ones are quite expensive. But last week I spotted in our local supermarket, a huge tin which was much, much cheaper than the same quantity bought in the standard size tins. So I bought one as it is ideal as the base for my hot chilli and ginger jam. This is hugely popular with my Wednesday group friends, and my customers down at the village bar. I had several orders for some next time I made it, so I also bought some more garlic and fresh root ginger. Then someone at the bar gave me a jar full of hot red peppers, so I had no excuse, and yesterday I brewed it up, so the house is 'pungent'! The peppers were fresh but beginning to dry so I thought the best thing to do with the ones I wasn't using straight away, was to dry them completely. So I spread them on some kitchen paper on a tray and put them out in the sunniest spot I could find. They need several days in the hot sun to dry properly, otherwise they go mouldy when you store them. I left them and got on on with my jam making, and when I went to fetch them in for the night, it was raining! I had been too busy to notice. The oven was warm from where I had sterilized my jars, so I put them in there to dry them again, and hopefully they will get some more sun this week so I can get them packed away before they get dusty!

This afternoon I have put the finishing touches to my March photo-board so here it is.These three months are now glued to scrapbook paper with a page opposite them giving numbered captions so I can look back and see what they are, and they are stored in a proper album. Hopefully that will give me the incentive to keep going for the rest of the year.